©2003 William Landay; (P) 2003 Books on Tape, Inc.
"Lyrical, keenly observed, and sometimes as dark as a wrong turn at midnight." (Steven White)
I was surprised to learn that Mission Flats was the author's first novel, as it reads like it was written by an old pro. Part Spencer, part Harry Bosch, and part like no one I've read before, the author brings you into his world and his story, and keeps you there and, most importantly, makes you care about his characters. The story is compelling, the characters are believable, the ending is surprising. Good job! Can't wait for his next.
I'm no kid, but I do live next to a cranberry bog.
I "read" this book because my wife had bought it and read it. She thought it was, "OK." I thought it was excellent.
The Book: An excellent departure from standard mystery novel formulas. A most interesting story based on two ideas which can engender a great deal of thought -- 1. One action can trigger a series of events that lead inexorably from one to the other and which may be impossible to stop. 2. Good people sometimes . . . I have to stop there to avoid giving away important plot information. I had moments during the plot development when I felt we were going in a pointless (and frankly annoying) direction. But no, we were in a series of events that . . . well, you understand.
The Author: First rate character development and an excellent ear for completely realistic dialogue. On top of that, Landay writes with style and language that clearly says "good writer", not just a "good typist". I've read quite a few books by typists. Come on Mr. Landay -- more books!
The Reader: Sorry, Mr. Dufris, but I was really upset by your opening words in this book. My reaction was that I simply could not listen to this guy through a complete abridged book. Then I GOT IT! William Dufris is an excellent reader. Not just multiple voices (though they are very well done), but multiple personalities. None of the characters were aural characatures. All became real people with real accents, real vocal inflections, real personalities. Scott Brick has a reader/brother.
Do I gush? Yeah, I guess I do. I really liked this book!
One reviewer on this site gives "Mission Flats" five stars, another gives it one. Who's right? Well, both are. This is a brilliantly written mystery -- right up there with Michael Connelly. (Hard to believe it's a first novel!!) Five stars for story and style. But the one-star reviewer has a point: the jinks in the plot are so abrupt and extreme that you feel as though you've been in a roll-over accident. Put on your seatbelt! If you look back over the story, though, you'll find plenty of clues and foreshadowing to warn you of what's ahead. A combination of Spencer and Bosch? Yes, it's that -- plus a generous dollop of Agatha Christie at her most devious.
I purchased one of the authors other books, "Defending Jacob", and loved it. As soon as I finished it, I did a search for other books by him and decided to start with his first. Maybe I should have read some reviews before making that decision...
This book goes on and on with small details about things that just does not matter. I listened to about 3 hours of this book and still could care less about finishing it, and this is very rare for me. Finally, on my way into work today (almost a 1.5 trip one way), I just gave up. Funny thing is I really just don't care even to know the "who, why and where". The only thing I am sorry for is I did not have another book loaded onto my iPhone so I had to finish the drive with the radio.
Given how much I liked "Defending Jacob", I am willing to give the author a pass on this one. If you read this book and liked it (some of the reviews are glowing), good for you. As for me, I wasted a credit and 3 hours that could have been spent listening to something I would actually enjoy and finish.
I am enjoying Mission Flats. The plot is complex, inviting further listening. The characters, likewise, are compelling, well described, and interesting. I am interested in how they will fair in the end. Landay's written a compelling mystery in a narrative style that is artistic, more than mere pulp fiction. He shares a bit of Dennis Lehane's artistry. The BIG problem with this audiobook, however, is the narrator. He's terrible! It's like listening to John Boy Walton try to narrate a gritty Boston murder mystery. His Boston accent is woeful, utterly unconvincing: I used to live in Boston, so I know a fake when I hear it. His tone of voice, inflections, and pace make the main character, Ben Truman, sound like a bumbling casper milquetoast, which I do not imagine Landay intended, even for a Versailles, Maine rube of a cop on the mean streets of Boston.
The story was a good one but the author spent too much of the book telling stories that didn't matter to the plot.
I read mysteries because I enjoy the twists and turns of the plot. I love getting the clues right, or getting them wrong if I've been artfully misdirected. I detest being lied to and that is what this author does. Dean Koontz uses paranormal to explain away plot inconsistecies; Landay doesn't bother. He gives us an ending that tells us to ignore all the development of characters we gone through and just accept his contrived, deceptive ending. As a former DA, Landay has held me in contempt. Don't let him do it to you.
If you haven't listened to Landay's "Defending Jacob," maybe it's a good idea to start there and work back to this first novel, which is wordy, drawn-out and not quite worth the plot payoff: We are all sinners. Landay is a good writer who delivers on the complexity of his characters, even in this book. About the narrator: I'm from Boston. His Boston is just fine. I think maybe those complaining are confusing the Boston with the Maine. Dufris does both well. He's a recessive style reader, slipping behind the story and driving it forward with subtlety. He never overplays the material, which some readers might find dull. "Defending Jacob" has an ending few if any will see coming. It reaches back to connect all the threads. A great book, and especially good at how little we know what the lives of children are like. All the parents think they're raising wonderful people. Having listened to "Defending Jacob," I was feeling generous during "Mission Flats." I enjoyed having the writer in my head once again, even though the ride was lackluster.
I am glad I read the author's second book ("The Strangler") before reading this one. Otherwise, I might have never gone past this book. While not horrible, it did meander at times. I disagree with some of the other reviewers who say that the ending was totally unpredictable. In fact, part of my problem is that I did not find it unpredictable enough. Nor did I care enough about the protagonist to care that much what happened to him: "Oh, yeah, right. Whatever." (The author also dismisses some loose ends without much thought.)
As far as the narration, I again disagree with some of the other reviewers (who hated him). I found the reader quite good EXCEPT when he attempted to imitate the Boston accent, making some of the characters (especially the female DA) sound like Elmer Fudd. I happen to live in Boston (not a native) and, trust me, even those with Boston accents don't sound like that.
All that said, I did not hate the book. Again, his second one is much better -- so I might have to go ahead and read his recent released third.
I was anxious to try other books by Landay after really enjoying Defending Jacob, but it's obvious he got better as he went on because this, his first book, is really only just OK. It's pretty much what I would expect from a lawyer turned author, but without much polish or style. Nothing really surprising in story or quality......I'd recommend you read "Defending Jacob" instead and think about future books, not his past books.
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